Fall/Winter Timetable

POL486H1S L0101

Graduate Course Code: POL2205H1S L0101

Topics in International Politics I

What Went Wrong? A Post Mortem of Political Disasters, Catastrophic Policy Failures, and Epic Marches of Folly


This is a seminar about disasters that human beings inflict on themselves. It explores the unfortunate chronicle of deaths foretold. Why do individuals, groups, and societies make repeated, and in hindsight, often easily predictable, damaging mistakes? Why do they persist in courses of action they should have known –or in fact knew –were likely to produce disastrous results? Why is it that smart, well-trained, conscientious people continue to be the source of catastrophes they could have seen coming? The seminar will try to tackle these questions through the examination of the record of various avoidable disasters across different levels of analysis, from the local to the international. Through these cases we will explore prominent social science explanations that seek to account for such recurring failures. We will therefore be able to pose questions not only about disaster, but also about the study of disaster. How does the puzzle of self-inflicted, apparently avoidable catastrophe appear when seen through the lens of the different political and social-science explanations? What can each one contribute to understanding and perhaps ameliorating the tendency of societal projects to go so badly wrong?

Format and Requirements

One two-hour seminar per week. Course requirements TBA.


POL208H1 or POL208Y1 or POL209H5 or POLB80H3